Brain Games Host Chuck Nice Wants To Make Science Fun And Inspiring: “I Would Love To Get Everybody Strung Out On Learning!”
'Brain Games on the Road' lets everyone in how easily we get deceived by our own brains.
Pop culture’s go-to astrophysicist with the hypnotically deep, commanding voice added, “Science literacy is not so much about what you know, but about how your brain is wired, how your brain is wired to ask questions, empowering you to probe knowledge and information that’s out there in the quest for what is objectively true in this world.”
And if you want to know how the human CPU operates, the Brain Games on the Road is a must-see, says American comedian Chuck Nice, the host of National Geographic’s mind-teasing game show, a reboot of the science-based series previously anchored by Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Silva and Keegan-Michael Key.
On the show, two teams of four players are pitted against each other in a series of challenges that test their cognitive prowess.
“I’ve always been a fan of neuroscience because everything that we do is piloted by our brain,” Nice, 46, tells 8days.sg on Zoom. “There’s, of course, the questions about consciousness — what is consciousness? Is it just the mechanism of the brain or are we really just a series of impulses and neurons firing up? Or are we more than that? That’s the big philosophical question.”
For Nice, who’s best known as Tyson’s co-host on the chat show StarTalk, what makes Brain Games so fascinating is that it demonstrates how often our brains deceive us. Take, for instance, the Cornsweet Illusion, featured in Episode 2, where we’re duped into believing that same shade of grey appears different when placed over a background with two colour degradations, one darker, the lighter.
“[On the show], you get to peek behind the curtain or should I say, behind your own forehead, and see how your brain works,” says Nice.
As the host, Nice’s job is to make learning fun and informative “without being starch and without being didactic.”
“I find that when it comes to education, the most effective education is one that excites someone to learn,” says Nice who describes himself as “a good student, a bad student, a present student, an absent student”. “I was all those things,” he says, with a laugh.
“You can demand someone to learn and they actually respond with good grades but that doesn’t mean they are learning and it also doesn’t mean they are inspired,” he explains. “I think it’s far more important to inspire people. Speaking of a little brain science, when you learn and if it’s fun, you’re far more likely to retain what you’ve learnt. Whenever you learn anything, there’s a little dopamine that's released in your brain, you get addicted to learning— I would love to get everybody strung out on learning!”
At the end of the day, Nice hopes he can be as good a science communicator as Tyson, who exerts a tremendous influence on his life. “I get a Master Class in astrophysics and other scientific disciplines on almost a daily basis!”
Every educator has a part to play in countering the rise of the anti-science movement that has escalated amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Listen, the anti-science bias is due to the politicisation of science,” says Nice. “Once you politicise science, people feel the need to pick a side based on how they feel and everyone knows science has nothing to do with how you feel. It has to deal with how you process data and make sure that the process is repeatable, over and over again. It’s basically the scientific method. There is no room for how you feel about that.”
In fact, science isn’t about always getting things right – it’s more about learning from what went wrong and how to use that knowledge to move forward. “The next question is, why? Oh my God, we’re going to open up a whole new area of exploration because something didn’t work the way we thought it was going to work and now we are going to find out why. As we go down that avenue, who knows what we are going to find? That’s the beauty of science.”
Anti-science means anti-thinking, and that's bad news for humanity. “I hope [the anti-science movement in the US] will come to an end very soon,” Nice continues. “I don’t know what it takes to make it end. I know it will take critical thinking and that is something that needs to be taught in every education across the world.”
But not everyone will share his view: “Critical thinking often leads to young people questioning everything, including authority, and that can sometimes be a problem for some people who hold power.”
Does Nice have any preferred mental exercises? “Puzzles are a great way to make your mind stays sharp and your mental acuity is as intense as it can be,” he suggests. He would also recommend picking up a new skill, language, and musical instrument. “I read a study that would create neural pathways to sharpen the mind.”
Has he tried Wordle?
“I have not yet played Wordle,” he says. “But I keep hearing about it all the time. You are the fifth person to tell me about Wordle. I got to check it out!”
Brain Games on the Road is now streaming on Disney+.
Photos: National Geographic Channel, TPG News/Click Photos